A School of Their Own
In its very own charter school, New York City’s AFT affiliate is acting on ideas put forward years ago by the teachers’ union’s most famous leader.
In the late 1980s, the labor leader Albert Shanker first articulated his vision of autonomous, teacher-formed “charter” schools. He lamented what he saw as a “lockstep” approach to K-12 education across the country that neglected the input of classroom teachers and failed to take into account students’ individual needs.
Now, the New York City affiliate that the late American Federation of Teachers chief once headed is picking up on his ideas in a spare wing of a junior high school. The United Federation of Teachers has started from scratch its very own charter school in a rough-and-tumble Brooklyn neighborhood.
“In some ways, we are confronting the same scenario that Shanker was talking about in the late ’80s,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the 140,000-member UFT, the largest union local in the nation. “We have to get out of the yoke of the bureaucracy [that has] created this factory model, one-size-fits-all...
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